Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thread 1: Mission

For those of you who are not taking this class with me but choose to follow me anyway, be warned that the next several posts will pertain to our textbook for the class.* Rather than chapters, this text employs the concept of threads to organize the main topics; thus each "thread" gets its own post, beginning with thread 1: mission.

Lankes states that "the mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities", pointing out immediately that this text is about the person rather than the place, about "librarianship not founded on materials, but outcomes and learning" (15). What, then, is a librarian? What is it that I'm setting out to become if I take this mission statement wholeheartedly for my own?

Let's start with the second part of this mission. What does it mean to be a facilitator of knowledge creation? I understand this to mean that I, the aspiring librarian have as my personal responsibility in any and perhaps all of my communities creating the space, virtual or otherwise, and then bringing together the necessary people, tools and other resources so that said communities can learn (create new knowledge) together. It's a tall order, and a sharp break with the notions of "librarian" that kept me from looking into the profession sooner. But wait, there's more! As I read this mission, it isn't enough simply to learn or even apply it strictly within the given community. We're supposed to apply it toward society as a whole to make the world a better place; in other words, we're 21st-century superhero-library-evangelists in the making. I can work with that. I've always wanted to be a prophet.

The beautiful part about all of this is that it shifts the focus to oneself and the communities one serves and how they (we) interact. It removes some of the "gatekeeper" mentality that was a part of librarianship when knowledge was still bound up primarily in physical collections. It emphasizes service in a more holistic way, which in turn democratizes the power structures that belong to a gatekeeper-seeker paradigm. We become collaborators, co-conspirators in a not-so-secret plot to enable people to learn how to learn. The challenges then become figuring out who and what "the people" are about and remembering that we absolutely cannot co-conspire alone. It's so easy to take the traditional superhero stance that is nearly indistinguishable from martyrdom, see "the people" in distress and jump in to save them before they can blink. Instead we're being asked - I am being asked - to become a new kind of superhero whose first job it is to know her communities well so that the work can begin. Where traditionalism sought to save, we'll work to create.

*Lankes, R. David. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship (pp.15-29). Cambridge: MIT Press.

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